Erik Johnson’s goal gives Avalanche chance to end Game 7 losing streak

SEATTLE — A spoonful of his own medicine aided Erik Johnson on his way to the rink for the biggest game of the season.

First-time teammate Evan Rodrigues has noticed that the Avalanche’s longest-tenured player has a “general aura” of levity. “No matter what the situation is,” Rodrigues said, “he’s always giving the room a laugh or keeping us upbeat.”

So as Johnson strolled from the team bus into Climate Pledge Arena on Friday afternoon, backup goalie Pavel Francouz fittingly gave him an outrageous forecast that earned a toothless laugh from Johnson.

“You’re going to get a hat trick tonight,” Francouz told the 35-year-old defenseman.

Johnson didn’t score in 63 regular-season games. In fact, he led the NHL in most shots (98) without a goal.

“I don’t know about that,” he told Francouz, “but thank you.”

Francouz was mad at Johnson after Game 6 for only scoring once.

Johnson of all Avs, on his sixth shot of the first round and 104th of the season including playoffs, was responsible for the game-winning goal that ensured a Game 7 on home ice Sunday (7:30 p.m. MT) between the Avalanche and Kraken.

Johnson, once picked No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft but now skating on Colorado’s third defensive pairing on the final season of his contract. Johnson, whose time in Denver outlasts every current Broncos player, Rockies player and Nuggets player. Johnson, whose Avalanche career has spanned three Game 7 losses, all by one goal and twice in overtime.

“You’ve gotta adapt your game and evolve as the game evolves,” Johnson said after a resounding 4-1 win in Game 6. “(Scoring) was once a thing I was a little bit more known for, but not so much anymore.”

Nerves are one thing that do not evolve with age, apparently. Does the wizened blueliner still get nervous in elimination games at this stage of his career?

“You know what, I think if you don’t have butterflies — no matter what game you’re playing — you shouldn’t be playing,” he told The Post, leaning back against his locker-room stall late Friday night. “That’ll be no different in Game 7.”

Those sage words should be received as reassuring by Cale Makar, still a spring chicken among the Avalanche’s defensive core. Even the world-class superstar looked rattled at moments during his first return to Seattle since a late hit led to a one-game suspended earlier in the week. Makar, pelted with boos every time he had possession, whiffed on a few shots and allowed pucks to skip over his stick. This was new for him; he’s used to being admired in every city.

The Norris Trophy winner naturally cited Johnson’s postgame mini-speech to the team when he was asked about Colorado’s resilience in spite of all that and then some.

“E.J. reiterated it after the game: Any time we’ve had adversity this year, we’ve kind of just looked it in the face and said, ‘We’re going to just take it one step at a time, and go right at it,’” Makar said.

So, yes, it’s OK to be nervous and feel the jitters of a big game, whether it’s an elimination contest in front of a hostile crowd or a winner-take-all Game 7. Johnson’s timely goal is a testament to his belief in that.

“But,” Johnson continued after a pause, “I mean … we played in Game 6 of a Cup-clinching Finals last year. So we’ve seen it all.”

Basically a rephrasing of what he told the team in Seattle’s visiting locker room. But even Johnson hasn’t seen a Game 7 win. The last time this organization won in that setting was 2002. Since then, the Avalanche have lost five consecutive winner-take-all contests. Johnson has played in two of the three that the Avs have encountered with him in Denver, most recently San Jose in 2019. He was injured the next season when Colorado’s stay in the COVID-19 bubble ended in overtime vs. Dallas.

The Stars now await the winner of this Game 7.

So as Johnson’s contract closes in on expiration, it would feel appropriate for him to delay the offseason uncertainty by checking off one more box. He has a Stanley Cup. How ’bout helping the Avs break the Game 7 streak before it becomes a curse?

He’s already played a major role in getting the series there.

With help from the wit of Francouz, of course.

“He was mad at me,” Johnson repeated. “But it’s all good.”

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